OAKLAND — You may think the Raiders were awful on Sunday, losing their final game of the season — a home game — by the crushing score of 34-14.
Don't rush to judgment.
In the first half, when the game was still a game, sort of, the Raiders held the Denver Broncos to a field goal on one of the Broncos' five possessions. True, it felt like the Broncos scored touchdowns on each possession. But they didn't. The Raiders heroically rose up and held them to a field goal on their third possession.
The Raiders sure made a statement on that one. The other four Denver possessions did result in touchdowns, but if you judge the Raiders on those, you are nitpicking.
True, the Raiders scored no points in the first half — they trailed 31-zip at halftime. And they permitted Peyton Manning to break the single-season record for passing yardage. He broke it so fast the Broncos put him on the bench in the second half. But Manning could have broken the record against any number of teams.
The Raiders actually scored two touchdowns of their own in the second half, both passes by Terrelle Pryor, who got the start for reasons which still seem obscure. True, he threw his touchdown passes after the Broncos took out a host of defensive starters and put in the scrubs and maybe a ball boy or two and someone's uncle from his mother's side.
And that proves something essential. When the Raiders play a team as crummy as they are, they can compete. That just shows how well-coached they are. And the credit for that coaching, of course, goes to head coach Dennis Allen. Sure, his team lost its last six in a row, eight of nine if you're keeping count. But, according to him, the team made progress from last season even though it finished with the same 4-12 record. But this season's 4-12 apparently was a "good" 4-12.
It was so good, in fact, Allen expects to return next season. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Here are some more good things to take away from Sunday. The crowd started booing the home team with 2:33 left in the first quarter. That is later than usual and indicates progress.
Although the Raiders did not know how to tackle, didn't seem to try, very few of them suffered injuries. And that is encouraging if you're a person who loves your fellow man. The Raiders are lovers.
After the game, Allen came to the interview room. He rarely shows emotion and he always acts like his team almost won. God love him.
Here are some of his remarks.
"We got beat by a better team today."
That remark is ambiguous. It either means, "We lost on Sunday to a team that is better than us all of the time." Or it means, "The Broncos were better than us on this one Sunday and only this one Sunday."
You make the call.
Allen: "We wanted to play better in the first half."
He sure didn't want to play worse.
Allen: "There were some positives in the game. The blocked punt was a positive."
Have you ever seen a man reaching — straining — for a positive?